About Scientific research
Science is the concerted human effort to understand, or to understand better, the history of the natural world and how the natural world works, with observable physical evidence as the basis of that understanding. It is done through observation of natural phenomena, and/or through experimentation that tries to simulate natural processes under controlled conditions.
Research comprises “creative work undertaken on a systematic basis in order to increase the stock of knowledge, including knowledge of humans, culture and society, and the use of this stock of knowledge to devise new applications.” It is used to establish or confirm facts, reaffirm the results of previous work, solve new or existing problems, support theorems, or develop new theories. A research project may also be an expansion on past work in the field. To test the validity of instruments, procedures, or experiments, research may replicate elements of prior projects, or the project as a whole. The primary purposes of basic research are documentation, discovery, interpretation, or the research and development of methods and systems for the advancement of human knowledge. The Merriam-Webster Online Dictionary defines research in more detail as “a studious inquiry or examination; especially investigation or experimentation aimed at the discovery and interpretation of facts, revision of accepted theories or laws in the light of new facts, or practical application of such new or revised theories or laws”. There are several forms of research: scientific, humanities, artistic, economic, social, business, marketing, practitioner research, etc. The general aims of research are: observe and Describe, predict, determination of the causes and Explain.
Scientific research is a systematic way of gathering data and harnessing curiosity. This research provides scientific information and theories for the explanation of the nature and the properties of the world. It makes practical applications possible. It is a logically stepped process used for investigating and acquiring or expanding our understanding. The findings of scientific research can be reproduced and demonstrated to be consistent. Whereas, non-scientific research is acquiring knowledge and truths about the world using techniques that do not follow the scientific method.
The major steps in conducting research are:
- Identification of research problem
- Literature review
- Specifying the purpose of research
- Determine specific research questions
- Specification of a Conceptual framework – Usually a set of hypotheses
- Choice of a methodology (for data collection)
- Data collection
- Analyzing and interpreting the data
- Reporting and evaluating research
- Communicating the research findings and, possibly, recommendations
A common misunderstanding is that a hypothesis will be established. Generally a hypothesis is used to make predictions that can be tested by observing the outcome of an experiment. If the outcome is inconsistent with the hypothesis, then the hypothesis is rejected. However, if the outcome is consistent with the hypothesis, the experiment is said to support the hypothesis. This careful language is used because researchers identify that alternative hypotheses may also be consistent with the observations. In this sense, a hypothesis can never be established, but rather only supported by surviving rounds of scientific testing and, eventually, becoming widely thought of as true.
- OECD (2002) Frascati Manual: proposed standard practice for surveys on research and experimental development, 6th edition. Retrieved 27 May 2012.